Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Smiley Hair


Here's something else (besides yesterday's snowdrops) that I found blooming in the garden -- an early primrose. We have a basket of them hanging from a branch on the walnut tree, and despite being ravaged by the occasional squirrel they're back for another spring.

We have several more in pots and I think they'll come up again too, but so far they're just little sprouts.

Yesterday was pretty quiet at work. I spent much of the day reading an interesting book loaned to me by a colleague called "Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society's Legacy of Gay Shame," by Matthew Todd. It's about the ways that LGBT people are scarred by familial, social and cultural expectations while growing up, and the ways those scars prevent many people from leading healthy lives as adults. Although I grew up in a pretty accepting environment, I can certainly identify with a lot of it, from the school bullying to the paranoia that accompanied coming of age during the AIDS epidemic. (I've written about that before.) There were plenty of small humiliations in my childhood and teenage years that told me I was intrinsically broken, and although I think I've grown into a pretty healthy adult I'm sure that pain lives within me still. How could it not?

I was lucky in many ways, though, having educated parents who worked in academia and no doubt knew, or at least knew of, other gay people. The road was no doubt easier for me than for some.

Anyway, it's a very interesting book and it's making me think about my own psychological state and responses.


This kid came into the library yesterday with that completely awesome hairstyle. He always has unusual hair -- last fall he was sporting a leopard-spot effect -- but this was a whole 'nother level! I asked him if I could take a picture of it and he agreed. As those '70s yellow smiley face buttons used to say, "Have a happy day!"

48 comments:

Andrew said...

Way cool hair.

I fairly successfully forget bad moments by being gay and not fitting in when I was young. Truly, I don't think there were too many, but there was a general area of non tolerance of poofters.

R tells me that in his growing up years in England, society was much more accepting there.

Moving with Mitchell said...

If I had hair, I’d do that (or maybe not, but it’s nice to think so).

The scars left by our childhoods. Mine were caused by my own parents and some extended family. I’ve been surprised by their permanence. Sounds like an interesting read.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

You are a lucky guy - reading books at work for your own pleasure and interest and getting paid for it. I can understand how budding gay children might have experiences that could mark them for life. These wouldn't have to be dramatic events like gay bashing but more subtle treatment such as the ways in which others look at you or teasing voice imitations or being excluded from certain conversations. Cumulatively, it would all mount up.

Tasker Dunham said...

I've just followed the link to the earlier post which is very moving.

Jennifer said...

That kid has great hair!

Mary said...

Love the kiddo's hair.

And just when you thought you were done...there's a new Newberry award winner--description from B&N: "The Last Cuentista is a mesmerizing science fiction tale for the ages, sprinkled with Mexican folklore. Petra Pena's journey through space and time is a stunning reminder of the power of stories, and how those stories shape both our past and future. This stunning space epic is a must-read for fans of The Giver."

Bob said...

I think every generation of LGBTQ+ people have had it easier than the generation before, so I like to think my struggles made it easier for the next one, and the one who came before me, made it easier for me to be accepted.

I.Love.That.Hair.

Boud said...

It worries me that there are people actively working to undermine the accepting attitudes to gay life. It's about civil rights under attack. So I'm happy to hear about acceptance where it happens.

That kid has a very imaginative approach to hair!

Jeanie said...

I think it will be forever till I get to see anything like a snowdrop or primrose growing outside here in Michigan. But it will come.

e said...

O wow. love the hair. Wanted is on Netflix.

The Bug said...

That hair is great. You could possibly copy it by painting your head pink with a smiley face. Something to consider for Halloween?

I think in general our society is just not very tolerant, when actually "tolerance" is the absolute MINIMUM we should ask of the people around us.

Pixie said...

I love that kid's hair!

I graduated from nursing in 1986 and my second nursing job was on a pulmonary unit. I lived in Calgary by then, so a large city and it was the university hospital. We got a lot of AIDS patients because of PCP pneumonia. I just looked it up and only now found out that it was a fungal infection, no google back then.

All of those young men died. It was heartbreaking and there was so much judgement on the unit that our manager brought in a young man to talk to us. He was catholic and one thing he said has always stuck in my mind, because of course, so many people still think being gay is a choice, he said, "Why would I choose this?"

Growing up I knew my aunt was gay and one of our close family friends, a young man, were both gay. It was not an issue with my parents or anyone in my family. It's just who they were.

You were lucky enough to be just that bit younger when the AIDS epidemic hit. You knew you had to have safe sex. The young men that I cared for didn't know that until it was too late. I still remember some of their faces all these years later. There were no treatments back then, AZT came out during that time but didn't really do much. They died of illnesses like PCP and CMV and Kaposi's sarcoma, illnesses that shouldn't kill young men.

But I never thought about what an impact AIDS had on young, gay men and their choices and their sex lives. Thank you for sharing that.

Ms. Moon said...

Oh, without a doubt you internalized some of the messages that society and our culture sent your way about being gay as a child and young adult, too. But I agree- you have grown up to be a healthy and (I think mostly) happy gay man although I know you must have gone through your share of crap to get there.
That kid is definitely rocking the hair.

Ed said...

I remember those days of the late 80's and how scary it was, even for those of us who weren't gay. I remember when a man in a neighboring county was diagnosed with Aids and suddenly half of our school was out the next day getting tested because they slept with so and so who slept with so and so, etc. I also remember a neighbor who worked in DC and came home to die of Aids. He was a friend of my parents and came over for a visit. I remember my mom throwing away the drinking glass after he left. We just didn't know any better. I'm glad that this particular disease has been moved into the treatable category if not the curable category from what I have read recently about medical studies.

Ellen D. said...

I am glad you have worked through it and can lead a happy life with Dave. I appreciate how you share your feelings on your blog.
That kid has great hair! I would never have had the courage to do that when I was young. Hell, I don't think I would have the courage to do that now! Good for him!

ellen abbott said...

The only way I can do crazy color in my hair is to bleach it and i'm not willing to do that kind of damage. If I ever get completely gray I'll do crazy color.

I remember in high school when I was informed one of the boys I was around gay. I didn't quite understand what that meant at the time and it was explained to me in crude remarks. He moved to San Francisco after graduating. He died years ago from AIDS. I raised my children to treat the other gendered as they would anyone and my daughter was quite an advocate for the gay and lesbian defending and standing up for them in junior high school. And on in the rest of her life. It's hard to believe that in this day and age some people still believe it's a choice which is ridiculous and worse that it's a major sin. And how horrible for all those whose families rejected them over something they were powerless to change as if it somehow tainted them and their families. I'm glad your personal experience with your family was more accepting.

robin andrea said...

Reading this makes me wonder if I knew anyone back in the 1950s and 60s who was gay. I must have, and yet not a single name or face emerges. The sadness of having to hide one's true self for so long back then, and of course even now, is so profound.
I love that kid's hair. I love that he changes it to other very cool designs. I hope he does more and you get more pics.

Sharon said...

I have a close friend who might like to read that book. I'll pass on the information. He has a supportive family and wide circle of loyal friends but in his youth he experienced some of the typical challenges.
That primrose is a welcome sight and what can say about that hair. It's a happy statement.

Margaret said...

During that period, I taught with gay people, many of them closeted, and my minister's son was gay (which his parents refused to accept); he died young of AIDS which shaped my own reaction to those times, on a personal level. We read "The Great Believers" in Book Club; it was an excellent book, and an interesting discussion. It brought back painful memories and stories of those we'd lost to AIDS.

Wilma said...

I have known a number of folks whose lives were destroyed by society for being gay or being different. I wish humans either didn't have or could overcome the innate fear of difference and learn to embrace difference for its own sake. I like the "in your face" difference of the kid's hair.

Allison said...

You would think, that in the year 2022, people could be better about LGBTQ people, but noooo. Texas does not want so much as the word gay to be spoken in schools. Arizona is proposing laws against drugs that start the transition process in minors, no participation in sports for trans people, and it goes on and on. At least Canada banned ECT as a "treatment" for being gay.

Beth Reed said...

Oh I love the kid's hairstyle! It is a statement that says... I am Happy, Deal With It! lol. It just really brightened my day.

I am really glad that you had educated parents and that alone was a ton of support for you. It is probably normal that the emotions you are feeling as your reading the book will give you pause to think about your own experiences.

As the decades pass us by, it is hard to see that people are still struggling with who they are sexually and how they are treated in society and within their own families.
I personally don't believe that a person's sexual preference is any of my business and so I don't see a person as LGBTQ. I see a person and usually a person of great creative talent at that.
Have a great day, Steve.

Kelly said...

I love the hair! I've always thought hair was one of the best ways for a kid to satisfy their desires to rebel or be different. It's usually pretty harmless.

I went back and read your earlier post and found it very interesting. No matter what a person's sexuality, what's wrong with being responsible or safe? I can remember telling our kids that we preferred them to wait for sex until they were emotionally mature enough for it (ha! what teen thinks they AREN'T mature enough?), but if they were going to have sex anyway, PLEASE be responsible and use condoms. The wrong encounter might not just result in an unwanted pregnancy or STD, but could even be a death warrant. So... I don't blame you for being paranoid and overly cautious in those days! It was a whole new (and scary) time for everyone.

I recently downloaded a book called Unclobber by Colby Martin that I'm looking forward to reading.

Catalyst said...

I came from a place and an era where "gay" was hidden and I never knew of it. And I'm ashamed of my attitude about it back then. Fortunately, I'm better informed and have a much better attitude now. And once upon a time I probably would have sneered at that boy's hair. Today, I admire it and his courage to wear it. It is stunning!

Steve Reed said...

I suppose it depends on where you grew up within any specific country and who you were hanging out with. I'm sure some parts of England (or Australia) are more accepting than others.

Steve Reed said...

You could always paint your head, as could I. Maybe we should try it?

Steve Reed said...

I don't often have days where I can read much, but this was a rare exception!

Yeah, much of the cultural shaming comes in small incidents or remarks, and taken alone they don't seem like much -- but cumulatively they add up.

Steve Reed said...

Thanks. I don't even like to re-read that post.

Steve Reed said...

Doesn't he?! I loved it.

Steve Reed said...

LOL -- I saw that! I'll read it but I think I might give it some time. :)

Steve Reed said...

Oh, absolutely. I feel like I had it so much easier than people even just a little older than me. I was young enough to escape AIDS and still benefit from growing acceptance.

Steve Reed said...

People who are working against gay acceptance know they are shouting into the wind, which gives them a sense of desperation. And it shows.

Steve Reed said...

OK, good to know! Thanks!

Steve Reed said...

Ha! That's what I told Mitchell above! I think we used to be more tolerant, but now there's been massive pushback. I imagine the pendulum will swing again.

Steve Reed said...

I can't imagine how terrifying it must have been to have HIV back in the bad old days.

It's not being gay that's a choice, it's the expression of sexuality. Gay men can "choose" to play straight but they're still gay, deep down.

Steve Reed said...

I do consider myself happy, and I'm lucky in that respect.

Steve Reed said...

Yeah, there was a lot of fear about it. I remember my dad even being concerned about handshakes and hugging and other casual contact. He said, "We just don't know!"

Steve Reed said...

I wouldn't have done anything like that either at his age! I think kids are more courageous now in matters of personal expression.

Steve Reed said...

I think this is one of the ways the Internet has done a world of good -- it's relieved people's isolation and shown them that they are not the only ones feeling or experiencing certain things. Families are less likely to shun gay children now (though it still happens) because they realize their situation is hardly unique or unusual.

Steve Reed said...

I'm sure you did know gay people. You must have! Several people I grew up with have come out as gay in the years since.

Steve Reed said...

It's a fascinating book but its emphasis is on people whose behavior is quite extreme -- people who basically need 12-step programs to break self-destructive cycles. I thought the examination of shame was interesting but the part about "how to get help" fortunately doesn't really apply to me!

Steve Reed said...

I haven't read "The Great Believers" yet -- I should add it to my list! Though honestly I have trouble with some AIDS literature. It hits too close to home.

Steve Reed said...

It's that evolutionary tendency to destroy anything different or unusual. Animals do it too. We should be able to rise above it, though, right?!

Steve Reed said...

It's funny that the anti-vaxx crowd is so resistant to government mandates regarding health and yet they're anti-abortion and against medication for trans minors. Don't they see the conflict?

Steve Reed said...

The world has gotten much better over time, though, in terms of recognizing difference and being tolerant. It's a long uphill climb!

Steve Reed said...

Colorful hair is very much a thing these days, at least in England, but I rarely see hair as unusual as that! I suppose everyone had some degree of fear during the AIDS crisis, but I think that fear really paralyzed me socially and romantically for many years.

Steve Reed said...

Older and wiser, right? That's how it's supposed to work for all of us!

Moving with Mitchell said...

I’ll follow your lead.